AFF Review: Mark Webber's Very Personal Docu-Drama 'Flesh & Blood'
by Alex Billington
October 29, 2017
Every once in a while a film comes along that is so honest, and so deeply personal, it might challenge those brave enough to view it to contemplate their own life. Actor/filmmaker Mark Webber has made a new film titled Flesh & Blood, and it's a docu-drama that discusses his own life story and the immense struggles his family has been through. It's a very personal film that balances the line between documentary and drama in a way that makes it "hyperrealistic", pulling viewers even closer to this story and the people in it. It's crazy impressive how much of himself Mark put into it, while still allowing us a chance to admire the journey and the characters in this particular story. It's a very raw, heartfelt film with a hint of hope that shines through.
Flesh & Blood is presented almost like a documentary, with various bits of camera footage and vérité-style shots that hide behind bushes and at times feel voyeuristic. This is to give us a closer look at his life and the people around him, mainly his family. At the start, Webber has been released from prison after serving five years for a drug-related crime (I believe this part of the story is fiction but I don't know for sure). He goes home to his mother, played by his real-life mother Cheri Honkala, and his younger brother, played by his real-life brother Guillermo Santos, who has Asperger's. They live in a tiny apartment in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and his mother is a well-regarded member of the community and anti-poverty activist. Mark struggles to stay positive and stay off drugs and alcohol while reconnecting with all his old friends in town.
Webber's film is essentially anti-mainstream filmmaking, and feels so brutally honest about the real world that it's almost hard to watch at times. There's no real narrative to it - we just follow Mark as he attempts to pick up the pieces of his old life. It talks so much about how hard it really is to live a good life, especially for people from poor neighborhoods. But nonetheless it's important to keep your head up, and remain positive no matter what happens. That positivity can come from many places, but most importantly your family, and the good people around you that love you and care for you no matter what, without conditions. There are a few key scenes where Mark just lets out about how much life sucks, and it's painful to see him say all this, because it's so accurate. But it's the process of going through this that helps him (and us) heal and progress.
The film rejects typical filmmaking conventions to remain personal and honest, which makes it a bit hard to follow, but it's still so unique and intimate there's plenty to admire and learn from the stories it shows. It deserves admiration for the way Webber opens up his own life to us through filmmaking, through cinematic storytelling and the power it has to inspire and educate. Webber knows how much power cinema has. The title is a reference to the most important question the film raises: Will Mark's life remain defined by his own flesh & blood? Will his past and his family and his choices continue to affect him, or will he be able to move on, and start anew, and become someone that can inspire others to make better choices. If this film shows anything, it's that yes, that is possible, and that hope is what keeps some people moving forward every day.